The last time we saw Jim Carrey, he was walking on water and parting his tomato soup as God-for-the-week in Bruce Almighty. The film was a rather shallow look at holding the All Knowing’s responsibilities.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is about as opposite a role as you can take. This is not going to bring in the U-Haul load of cash that Almighty did, nor is it going to offer Carrey free-reign to do almost whatever he pleases on screen for two hours for a $20 million paycheck he’s coveted in the past.
What this film might do though, is bring Carrey the recognition he deserves as a serious actor. The Truman Show was foolishly overlooked at the Academy Awards, but barring a huge injustice, Carrey should have a spot reserved for him at the Oscars next year for Eternal Sunshine.
In Sunshine, Carrey portrays Joel Barish, the perennial shy-guy and antithesis of his everyday personality, with a softness so tender that you can almost feel his self-confidence shattering from the screen.
The opening sequence of the film has Barish spontaneously skipping work and taking a train ride on a whim that he doesn’t even understand – it’s there that he meets the recklessly impulsive Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet, wonderfully all-over-the-place as an emotional train wreck).
Overcoming Joel’s overwhelming phobia of public interaction through Clementine’s incredible lack of it, they start to have a relationship, and before you know it Carrey is hunched over in the front of his car crying his eyes out when the relationship deteriorates. Still trying to win her back weeks later, Joel goes to where she works in order to apologize, but she no longer has any idea who he is. We find out soon afterwards that in one of her impulsive decisions, Clementine capriciously had all her memories of Joel erased at Lacuna, Inc. In spite, Joel decides to have the same procedure to rid himself of the torturous memories he has of her.
As Joel’s memories start to be erased, the sets and people around him start disappearing in an astonishing fashion. The problem though, comes after some of their more turbulent memories are erased. It’s then that they start erasing the fonder memories of their relationship and Joel starts to have a change of heart… begging to keep his memories and trying to hide any sort of remembrance of Clementine in the darkest parts of his mind.
The movie is written by Charlie Kaufman, (of Adaptation and Being John Malkovich fame), which means it’s anything but the customary Hollywood film. But distinguishing Sunshine from Kaufman’s previous work is the unquestionable emotion at the movies’ center. The story is a heartbreaking take on relationships and whether it is truly better to have love and lost or to have never loved at all.
Forget the last nine months of 2004, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the best movie of the year.
Brian Mulligan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org